Image: Impression of proposed new ramp on Wester Distributor. Photo: Transport for NSW.
By ERIN MODARO
More questions are being raised about proposed upgrades to the Western Distributor in Pyrmont and Ultimo, as the City of Sydney says Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has kept council in the dark. The upgrade plans include the construction of a new off-ramp from Fig Street, changes to the intersection at Allen Street and Harris Street, and changes to the Pyrmont Bridge Road off-ramp.
Sydney Council submitted a scathing submission to TfNSW about the upgrades, with claims that adequate consultation with council was not carried out, and that the changes will have negative effects on the surrounding community.
The submission says that staff from TfNSW “deliberately withheld all information on the Western Distributor proposal” from Council staff. The City of Sydney say that TfNSW only consulted with Transurban, the road operator that manages much of Sydney’s road network, in the development of the proposal.
When City Hub reached out to TfNSW asking why information was withheld from the City of Sydney, a spokesperson said that “Transport consulted directly with City of Sydney in September regarding the proposed works”.
The spokesperson said council was granted a “one-week extension on the consultation period to submit their feedback”. 11 face-to-face community information sessions about the upgrades were held throughout October.
However, the submission from council regards consultation during the “development” of the proposal.
Council also noted that in an initial feedback phase, TfNSW was only seeking feedback on how to minimise impacts from construction, instead of feedback on the nature of the changes to the road. The feedback question was later changed to a more broadly worded sentence, allowing for any form of feedback.
Questions over increased traffic flow from Western Distributor
Other issues the City of Sydney recognised with the upgrades include the impact that increased traffic flows will have in Pyrmont and Ultimo. In a letter to residents from Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor explained that “these kinds of changes only ease motorway congestion for a short time, while the traffic increases the proposal will bring to Pyrmont and Ultimo will be permanent”.
“Funnelling more motorway traffic into our local streets will put our community at risk” Cr Moore told residents.
Council has also noted that 71 trees in the inner city area will be removed for the upgrades, which accounts for 10% of total tree coverage across the study area.
“TfNSW’s recently proposed ‘Western Distributor Improvements’ aim to funnel more traffic into Allen and Harris Streets to the detriment of pedestrians, active and public transport and, more generally, the residents of the Peninsula” the submission stated.
Residents are concerned the changes to the road are prioritising vehicle access over pedestrian access to the inner city area. Friends of Ultimo previously told City Hub that the changes will “drastically worsen” the lives of local residents.
“It would transform Allen Street into a four lane ‘vehicle sewer’ and increase traffic along Harris Street” a spokesperson said.
Government consultation on the Western Distributor upgrades closed on October 28, with Transport for NSW now reviewing submissions.